By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—A Victoria’s Secret supermodel with her own fashion and fragrance lines (Rosie for Autograph), stunning Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is also an emerging actress. She made her feature debut in Michael Bay’s 2011 action drama “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Her second exposure into the film world is another action-oriented popcorn flick, the long-awaited sequel “Mad Max: Fury Road.” (The 1979 original starred Mel Gibson, making him an international star.)
The leggy blond plays The Splendid Angharad, lead wife of a ruthless leader in a post-apocalypse Australia. Audiences are introduced to her character in the middle of road chase across the Outback desert, where rogue tanker driver Imperator Furiosa (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, in full bad-ass mode), risks her own life to help five abused women escape the brutal clutches of Immortan Joe (Aussie actor Hugh Keays-Byrne). Doggedly pursued by Immortan Joe and his well-armed men in oddly modified cars, tanks and motorcycles, Furiosa manages to protect them with the help of an escaped prisoner Max (Tom Hardy, “Star Trek: Nemesis,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) and a follower of Immortan called Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who begins to have a change of heart as the pursuit goes on.
In the testosterone-charged actioner (directed and co-written by original “Mad Max” filmmaker George Miller), Huntington-Whiteley and her band of sister wives (played by Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) add some much needed girl-power to the high-octane escape story.
Prior to production, she, along with the other actresses who play the wives, traveled to Sydney for three weeks of rehearsals, costume fittings, movement work with Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard, and explored their characters in workshops with co-screenwriter Nico Lathouris.
As part of her research, Huntington-Whiteley also spent time with feminist playwright Eve Ensler, who had worked in the Congo with women struggling with issues of rape. She found speaking with Ensler particularly illuminating because her character’s pregnancy was the outcome of a rape.
“Eve was brilliant and made everything very real for us,” the 28-year-old model/actress said.
Dressed in black, skin-tight pants and a black sleeveless top revealing much of her back, the veteran catwalk expert easily maneuver the steps to the dais in high heels for an interview. The blond model/actress, who is dating action star Jason Statham, spoke about her “Mad Max” experience, shooting on location in Namibia (subbing for the Australian Outback), playing a reluctant soon-to-be mum, and how she prepares for real life disasters as a transplanted Angeleno.
Q: Since you now live in L.A., and this is earthquake country, do you feel you have a good survival instinct? Are you prepared for a disaster?
Huntington-Whiteley: I have an emergency pack in my car with sneakers. Everyone laughs at me for that but a girlfriend of mine, who grew up in L.A., told me I had to have one in back of my car. I live in (high) heels so I threw a pair of sneakers in the back of the car because I know I’d be caught in ridiculously high heels if an earthquake were ever to happen. I also have a few (disaster kits) dotted throughout my house. It’s definitely something you wouldn’t normally think about when you’ve grown up in England. My friends here told me it’s a huge possibility.
Q: How were you introduced to the previous “Mad Max” films?
Huntington-Whiteley: I’d seen the films—I don’t know exactly when—but I had definitely seen them before I knew about this audition, and was asked to join this film. I’d definitely seen the first two and I checked out the third one once George (Miller, the director) asked me to go down to Australia. These films are so referenced in pop culture and fashion, and so it’s something I’d heard a lot about in the early stages of my fashion career. People would say, “Oh, that’s so Mad Max!” So eventually I checked those films out.
Q: You character, Splendid, is pregnant by a man who raped her. How did you get into the mindset of a woman who was conflicted about her condition?
Huntington-Whiteley: I did a lot of research on my and own and had many conversations with Eve (Ensler, the feminist playwright) and George (Miller, the director) about how truly conflicted she would be about the child she’s carrying. She shows a lot of courage but is often reckless. I see that as an expression of the pain over what Immortan did to her and the possibility that she could still love the child.
Q: What was the most dangerous stunt you performed?
Huntington-Whiteley: I loved doing the stunts. It’s funny because people ask, “What was the most dangerous part of it?” and I think we were so prepped by the stunt team, and the stunt team was the best in the world. They asked us if we were comfortable doing the stunts. For me, I’m always up for them. You don’t get to do them on your average day, hanging out of a car whilst it’s going 50 m.p.h. You’re going up on a wire and you’re jumping from fire—those things are fun. It’s a moment to be truly un-self-conscious. You’re reacting to exactly what’s going on in front of you. I was stoked about it.
Q: Since it was an intense film, what did you do to relax when the cameras were off?
Huntington-Whiteley: (joking) Ate toast and sandwiches.
Q: After shooting this film in a desert for six months in Africa, how was it coming back into your regular every day life?
Huntington-Whiteley: I was there for less time than the rest of the cast. I had to fly in and out quite a lot, which was particularly grueling and tough, because it’s a 36-hour journey from Namibia to L.A., and I had to do that quite a few times. It’s bizarre, because there’s sort of a period of time when you complete something where you put your heart into it. There’s an adjustment period of getting back to your normal life, like dining at a fancy restaurant, putting your jewelry back on. I learned something and had almost an out of body experience playing your character and then coming back to being yourself again. You have new things to bring to yourself and there’s a beautiful healing process within yourself and learn a lot about who you are by delving into your character.